DALLAS -- Not to sound like a broken record, but North Texas hip-hop is having a moment.
Individuals and groups in Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton are tackling the genre from a variety of angles, but few are doing so with the ambition of Dallas duo A.Dd+ (pronounced ay-dee-dee).
The rappers known as Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy (25-year-old Arrias Walls and 24-year-old Dionte Rembert, respectively, to their parents) have come a long way in a relatively short time, moving from their dazzling 2009 mixtape, Power of the Tongue, to national attention from tastemaking outlets like XXL and Pitchfork.
Now, the duo, working with trusted collaborators like producer Picnictyme and DJ Sober, is poised to make its biggest splash yet, with its latest effort, DiveHiFlyLo.
A dozen tracks, from the doomy opener 2012 and Beyond to the wryly funny The Plus Sign Is Silent to the simmering Drive Safe, are designed not only to showcase A.Dd+'s range, but to help push hip-hop in a new direction.
"We want to bring in new listeners," says Walls, during a recent interview at a north Dallas Starbucks, "but also set the tone for what Dallas hip-hop should be. We're trying to set a new standard for Dallas hip-hop, and bring that to the national level, of course."
That "new standard" involves some left-of-center sonics, which sets A.Dd+ apart from its contemporaries even as it evokes comparisons to fellow local R&B/hip-hop vanguards like Erykah Badu. Walls' husky, insistent flow and Rembert's hyperactive, nimble vocals blend with the often-inventive soundscapes created by a coterie of forward-thinking producers.
"I feel like creativity has always been in hip-hop; it was up to the artist to take that risk," Walls says. "If you're more worried about what the audience will think, or who you need to impress ... you're more than likely going to fail. You have to do what comes naturally to you. That's how we approach each song: We do what we want to do, not what everybody else is doing."
Take it to the stage
If any hip-hop act can break out beyond the state's borders, it's Paris and Slim, who conjure a magnetic, almost giddy energy on stage. Last year, the two were a highlight of the XXL showcase at South by Southwest, dominating an east Austin warehouse and upstaging buzzy rhyme-slingers like Danny Brown and Future.
"That's one of the things we pride ourselves on, having good stage presence," Walls says.
Along with unofficial third member DJ Sober (aka Will Rhoten, who Slim calls "the best DJ ever"), A.Dd+ has become one of the few local rap acts to cross over and play traditionally rock-oriented venues like Trees, Club Dada and the Kessler Theater.
They'll edge closer to the mainstream Saturday, when A.Dd+, along with Brain Gang, -topic and Tunk, will headline the Granada Theater to celebrate the release of DiveHiFlyLo.
"I think it's because of the music that we put out and its appeal," says Dionte Rembert.
A.Dd+ has regularly upped the ante on itself since 2007, when the duo first began writing, recording and performing as A.Dd+. With each successive release, Paris and Slim are refining their approach, even as they dramatically expand their style.
"Paris and Slim are hard workers and incredible emcees," says producer Picnictyme (real name: Richard Escobedo), who oversaw A.Dd+'s 2011 debut LP, When Pigs Fly. "As their producer, I think we're pretty keen on being able to have fun and explore in any realm of expression. They have that gift."
Rembert further clarifies the duo's intentions: "The maximum amount of opportunity we can get out of all of this. I want everything to the max; whatever we get out of it, I want it to the max."
And given the state of the local hip-hop community -- thriving, expansive and increasingly drawing attention from outside the area -- it's a good bet A.Dd+ will break big sooner rather than later. In the coming months, A.Dd+ will continue releasing songs that didn't make DiveHiFlyLo online, as they did after When Pigs Fly. They also hope to join up with some national tours, and are scheduled to perform at this year's SXSW.
They will, as Slim rhymed on the 2011 single Getting Far, keep "mastering our craft every day until perfection."
"We'll never stop," Walls says, before turning surprisingly humble. "From the music, I want people to take -- we're everyday people, everyday dudes. We're just rapping about life; we try to use our everyday life to express how we view the world."